Camp Laurel Blog

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All Camp Events

Carnival-1-2While the daily program at Camp Laurel consists of six periods and is highly structured, we’re also a camp which loves spirit, spontaneity and flexibility. Once every five days or so, we take a break from our active program for S Days (Special Days.) S Days are trips days, special events days or tradition days. And at least once a week, we have an all-camp event when, regardless of campus, we come together for a fun, recreational and exciting event that breaks up the camp week and brings the whole Laurel Family together. Often, siblings, cousins, friends and neighbors across campuses join together for a special activity. Yesterday, it was our Carnival.

Carnival best-Sam-5Carnival has been a camp tradition for 40 Camp Laurel years. Our annual Carnival starts at 4:30 in the afternoon and goes until 8:30 at night. We start with a great lakeside cookout (burgers, corn dogs, chicken, salad, pizza, fresh fruit and watermelon) and then we head up to the Blast Bounce Rides.

In addition to the rides, there are booths and games with everything imaginable: Face Painting, Mime, Photo Boots, Fortune Telling, Human Slot Machine, Smack The Rat, Plinko, Marriage Booth, Mini Golf and more. There are dressed up characters  and “carnies,”  And this year, we had a special treat of bronzed, moving statues.

Of course, there’s the ever-famous Fried Dough truck with all kinds of toppings and plenty of water and Powerade to wash it down.

We love Carnival…and we love the fun and games of our weekly S Days.

Competition at Camp

Since before the training wheels were even taken off of my bike, I’ve been playing sports. My older brothers were all exceptional athletes which put a lot of pressure on me; I was constantly being compared to them and thus was always being pushed to run faster, train harder and jump higher. There was a lot of emphasis put on being the best. I won plenty of medals and trophies and was considered an MVP in most sports I played. I loved playing, but more than that, I loved winning. I lived for that feeling. I would do whatever it took to be on top and wouldn’t enjoy myself if I wasn’t the champion. Then I went to camp.

 

When I stepped on the camp fields for the first time I began with my usual intensity. It took a second for me to realize just how different the environment was from what I was used to. Usually I’d look around before a game and see serious, intense faces. At camp, I instead saw smiling, happy ones. I realized that while I played to win, my fellow campers had different motives. They enjoyed winning, but they played to learn something new, push themselves and spend an hour doing something they loved. They helped show me there’s a difference between friendly competition and unhealthy competition.

 

My competitive spirit came solely from winning and being the best. I learned that healthy competitiveness comes from improving and being your best self. Instead of being in competition with others, I began competing with my past self. This allowed me to focus on the skills I needed to improve on while still enjoying the game. When you can walk away from a sport and still have had a great time, win or lose, you’re a winner.

 

When I got home, I took what I learned and applied it to my sports teams. It was difficult for my dad to learn to calm down, stay quiet and stop focusing solely on winning, but when he saw how much happier I was and how much I improved, he started to come around.

 

I’m so thankful for Camp Laurel and how they taught me to be a compassionate, helpful and less stressed athlete and person.

 

Alex, age 14

Going on a Hike… More than Just Good Exercise!

When you hear the word “camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship and the outdoors.

Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed time in nature is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Laurel is a very popular activity each summer.

There’s nothing like fresh air to remind us of the things that matter in life.

The Healing Power of Nature

Did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?

In today’s world this is especially true; between smartphones and tablets, time spent outdoors is seriously dwindling. But hiking isn’t just a serious workout. It is a way for campers and counselors to soak in the sun, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy each other’s company. Without realizing it, they are improving their physical, emotional and mental health – all while having fun in the process!

The Journey is the Destination

In the high-energy world of camp activities, hiking is the perfect opportunity to slow down. While the summit may be spectacular, the best part of hiking is the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail. Campers have the chance to get to know one another and to experience the outdoors with people they enjoy.

Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone. Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!

8 Ways Everyone Can Tell You Went to Camp

1. You Want to Play Outside No Matter the Weather
The rain-or-shine attitude is something that sets campers apart. Whether you are going rock climbing or waterskiing, you sure aren’t going to miss out on the time of your life because of a little liquid sunshine!!

2. You Always Want to Work as a Team
Summer camp is a crash-course in teamwork and quickly turns even those with “quieter” personalities into leaders and team players. From meals to playtime to campfires, campers do everything together and quickly discover that the more you collaborate, the more fun you can have.

3. You’re Always Singing and Clowning Around
You can take the camper out of camp, but you can never take the camp songs out of the camper. Repeat-after-me melodies are a tradition as old as camp itself that turn goofy rhymes into songs that get stuck in your head forever…for counselors and campers alike.

4. You Don’t Mind Getting a Little Dirty
Summer camp is all about having fun in the great outdoors, and that means running around in the woods, jumping in the lake and getting grass stains on your jeans.  Especially for campers coming from the big city, getting comfortable with mud, bugs and insects means getting out of your comfort zone… and having a blast while doing so.

5. You Get Along with People Who are Different than You
Diversity is strength, and camp is one of the most diverse places around. You never know who’s going to be in your age group, and no matter where everyone comes from, you all have to work together both in and out of activities.

6. You Love to Send “Snail-Mail”
Just like the owl post over breakfast in Harry Potter, mail time at camp is exciting for everyone! Parents love getting updates from camp, and campers love getting a little piece of home. In a world where paper is being used less and less, there’s nothing like getting a post card in the winter from your best camp friend.

7. You Know How to Start a Fire (and Roast a Perfect Marshmallow!)
Not everyone knows how to start a fire in the digital era, but as a camper you know a thing or two about getting that tinder to snap, crackle and pop. Chances are you even have a great campfire story and know a thing or two about crafting the perfect s’more!

8. You Want to Be a Counselor When You “Grow Up”
The number one sign of a lifelong camper is when you’ve been going to camp for so many seasons that you become too old to be a camper — so you become a counselor! Being a camp counselor is one of the best jobs in the world and a chance to share all your years of camp wisdom with the next generation. You’re more than just a camper…you’re a role model!

What I Learned about Friendship from Camp

You know that “first day of school” feeling? I’m sure you do. Some people love it while others find it quite scary. The chance to explore a new place, try new things, and make new friends can be simultaneously exhilarating and t

errifying.

How about that “first day of camp” feeling? I’m going to be honest with you, I was a shy kid, and the first day of camp I was worried. So many new faces! So many new activities! You mean we’re staying here for seven weeks?!

CL (6)Making Friends at Camp is Easy

Well, it turned out my fears were completely unfounded; I quickly learned that it’s practically impossible not to make new friends at camp. From the team games to the intimate campfire circles, sticking to yourself isn’t really an option. There are no TV shows or computer games to distract or isolate you!

But camp doesn’t just teach you how to make friends; it teaches you how to keep them.

Learning to Be a Good Friend

Summer camp is a crash course in socializing. Spending weeks together with the same group teaches campers how to interact with each other in ways that you can’t really learn at school. You aren’t just playing games at camp; you’re learning how to live communally. That means sharing, communicating, and understanding different perspectives. In a sense, camp helps teach kids to be a good friend to their peers.

Learning to be a good friend means learning to give as much as you take. Everyone has rough days, and camp is no exception. Cheering up a friend who doesn’t feel like playing games or joining in the campfire can be tough, but every camper does it. Why? Because they know that their camp friends would gladly lend them the same support.

Friends that Last ForeverCL (4)

The camp experience is as intense as it is fleeting. Similar experiences don’t come around often, so it’s no surprise that campers often become life-long friends. When you find yourself missing summer, your camp friends are always there to remind you that you aren’t alone. Only someone who was there with you can truly understand what the nostalgia is all about — it’s an experience that links you forever.

The one sad part about camp friendships is that when camp is over, you have to say goodbye. While goodbyes may be tough, next summer is always right around the corner!

Great Outdoors…Great Skills

I’ve always been surprised by the wide range of lessons that campers take away from the outdoor adventure activities at camp. Some campers benefit most from building a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness. Others particularly enjoy the non-competitive aspects of the activities, which combine the adrenaline of sports with the positivity of teamwork. Regardless of interests, all campers benefit from outdoor education. Nature, like adventure, is universally meaningful — and universally fun.

Personal DevelopmentCL2

A camper must learn to trust themselves before they learn to trust others, and outdoor skill-building is one of the greatest ways to build self-confidence. Survival skills like fire-starting and shelter-building teach campers that strength comes from within. Not to mention, knowing how to pitch a tent and read a map teaches campers how to problem solve and advocate for themselves.

Teamwork vs. Competition

Teamwork is one of the core values at camp, and adventures in the great outdoors provide challenges that build trust and communication skills. Outdoor adventure requires a high level of teamwork, even though the objective isn’t “beating” another team. There are no winners and losers when the goal is to make a campfire or build a cool shelter, instead campers work together for the benefit of all. Campers learn to work together to conquer a challenge.

CL1Finding our Place in the World

When it comes to outdoor adventure at camp, the “outdoor” side is equally as important as the “adventure” side. Adventure is an important component, but the raw experience of being in nature is what makes seemingly simple activities like hiking and camping so memorable. Particularly for campers coming from the city, a reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things can be immeasurably valuable. The great outdoors are important for everyone. After all, the beautiful Maine wilderness and crisp air are a huge part of what makes Camp Laurel such a special place.

Can-do Attitude

Regardless of the aspect of outdoor adventure that captures a camper’s imagination most, they are guaranteed to walk away with a new sense of empowerment. We live in a fast-paced world and the outdoor experiences at camp prepare campers to tackle the world with creativity, determination and humility. Just get outside and try it!

Camp Changed My Kid

P19I was nervous and excited to send my son Connor to camp this year. Connor’s best friend attended camp the summer before and could not stop raving about it. So after plenty of research and discussions, we decided to let Connor spend the summer away. I won’t lie, my “mommy heart” broke a little when he practically jumped out of the car to get on the plane and didn’t look back, but I was pretty sure we were making the right decision. In August, when he got home, I was 100% sure we made the right decision. The happy, smiley kid who jumped into our backseat was…different.

I couldn’t pin point many differences right away, except for the excitement in his eyes and voice when he talked about all of his new friends and cracked himself up remembering inside jokes and hilarious conversations with his new buddies. One of the main things I noticed when we got home was how helpful he had become. Without me asking, he would make his bed, take his plates to the sink, offer to bring in the groceries or even simply ask if he could get us anything from the kitchen since he was going that way. I noticed a new sense of thoughtfulness when he came back. Not that he was heartless before by any means, but I definitely noticed a change in his willingness to help others and think of others before himself. As the days passed, my heart exploded with joy to see him excited to text, chat and FaceTime with his new friends. He went to camp a little reserved, and came back social and confident. I loved seeing him interact with his peers, I loved seeing how he was truly listening to what others had to say, and how he felt confident contributing to the conversation.P43

Just today, he told me he was going to try out for soccer at school, a sport he had never played before camp. He said he was encouraged to try it at camp and played it almost every day while he was there. As a mom, I am blown away at what positive changes have come from sending my son to camp. I knew he would make friends, try a new activity or two and learn to live both independently and with a group, but I had no idea about the social skills, character development, relational growth and boost in confidence that spending a few weeks away could create.

Camp changed my son for the better, and we are both looking forward to the growth and changes that will happen next summer at camp!

Staff Orientation Begins!

IMG_3130We’ve just completed our Pre-Season Training Programs and are welcoming the full Camp Laurel Staff today!! You can taste the excitement in the air! Our counselors are coming from near and far anticipating another magical summer on Echo Lake. Prior to today’s Staff Orientation kick-off, our Athletic, Inter-Arts, Waterfront, Tennis, Adventure and Equestrian Department Heads have been busy training and preparing their program areas for Camper Arrival Day – June 27!! Our Head Counselor and Campus Leader Team has been going strong since last Monday and we are set!! Now it’s time to welcome the Counselors at our Opening Staff Campfire and spend the next week getting ready for the best campers anywhere!

Food… Glorious Food

ChefCamp2 One of the perks about sending your child to Camp Laurel is that a good chef may return home to you. Your child who only knew how to make a sandwich or had no idea how to boil water may come back as a baking, sautéing foodie who has a newfound appreciation for seasonings, sauces and the magic that can happen in the kitchen. This transformation begins when campers take advantage of the ChefCamp program at Camp Laurel. ChefCamp is led by our Head Chef and specialists who have a wealth of experience. The incredible, fully-integrated culinary center at Camp Laurel gives campers the tools, appliances and space to create their favorite dishes and learn a few new ones.

Encouraging your child to explore their culinary side not only ensures you’ll get to try some of their creations once they return home, but also teaches them valuable life skills. Cooking is not just throwing ingredients together and waiting until it’s edible. Cooking is an art, and a way for aspiring chefs to express themselves. The thought, preparation, and emotion that goes into cooking is something many children find challenging but rewarding. They learn valuable skills such as time management, following directions and communication. Cooking also perfects math and science skills in a way that is fun and different.

P14 ChefCamp (7)When your child is able to start and finish a project in the kitchen, their self-confidence grows and they become more self-assured and willing to try new things that seem out of their comfort zone. When they are active in the kitchen and learn about the things that go into their food, they are also learning about making healthy choices when it comes to what they eat.

Cooking gives children a sense of purpose and something they feel they can contribute to the family. Once a camper’s family takes a bite of their famous mac and cheese or savory French Onion soup and can’t get enough, they’ll feel that they have a valuable quality to contribute to family functions. Even if they just learn basic cooking skills, the importance of cleaning up after yourself and how to measure properly, they will be ahead of most of their peers.

Whether your child is a chef-in-the-making, or is just starting to show interest in the kitchen, ChefCamp is a great way for kids to explore culinary arts.

Camp: A Safe Place to be Silly

P56-57 (2) 2 Campers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts out on stage at Camp Laurel. You can see campers giggling in groups, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Of course, staff members get in on the action too, letting their inner-child emerge by singing, dancing and playing along with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe at camp; safe to be silly, safe to use their imaginations and safe to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment-free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers. Not at camp, though.

Camp Laurel encourages campers to be silly in a variety of ways. Programmed “free time” allows campers to explore and socialize with their friends in a way that is supervised, but not highly structured. This gives campers time to use their imaginations. Some campers like to put on skits or host a cabin comedy club. They are encouraged to do and say the silly, kid-like things that come so naturally to them.

P60 Quest (7)During structured activities, kids are supported when they speak their minds, share their opinions and engage in discussions. They are taught to listen to and respect each other, which gives children the green light to do and say silly things without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. By exploring this side, kids develop a sense of humor. A good sense of humor helps children be spontaneous, to see different sides of a situation, enjoy the playful parts of life and not take themselves too seriously. These character traits are extremely helpful for kids who have a lot of stress and responsibility in school, sports and life back in the real world. A good sense of humor also increases their self-esteem, which is always a bonus!

P20-21 (58)Counselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun, relatable and great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins).

Children are expected to be focused and serious for a large portion of their day in the “real world,” so it is important to foster their childlike wonder and silliness whenever possible. At Camp Laurel, kids can feel safe to show off their silly side.

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